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Back to listAug 16, 2007

Min-On Sponsors Japan Tour of Madagascar Artists

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The fifth installment of the Min-On Concert Association's "A Musical Voyage Across Africa," launched 1999, will feature the music and dance of the Republic of Madagascar, a colorful, exotic island country off the southeastern coast of Africa. The tour, which kicked off in mid-August 2007, will take the Madagascar artists to 18 cities in Japan through mid-September.

Ever since its founding in 1963, the Min-On Concert Association has engaged in Cultural Activitiess with numerous countries around the world, inviting their artists to perform in Japan. Madagascar is the 95th country whose artists Min-On has invited.

Madagascar is the fourth largest island in the world, located in the Indian Ocean 400 kilometers off the eastern coast of Africa across the Mozambique Channel, just south of the equator. Known as the "Crossroad of the Indian Ocean," Madagascar has been pivotal for interchange between the peoples of Africa, Asia, Arabia and Europe. Assimilating and embracing these diverse cultures, the Malagasy people developed their own unique music and dance styles.

During this Japan tour, Japanese audiences will be able to explore a sampling of the diverse, kaleidoscopic dance genres Madagascar has to offer.

Hira gasy, meaning "Malagasy Arts" and combining the most high profile of the Malagasy dances, is a day-long ceremonial spectacle of music, dance and oratory that began during the reign of Prince Andrianampoinimerina (1789-1810), the powerful ruler of the Merina Kingdom, who hired troupes to enhance his political speeches. Hira gasy is a poetic art form laced with metaphors and parables that express sentiments such as affection, love, gratitude, endurance, despair and desire, as well as censure and criticism. The theatrics begin with political oratory and critique by the elder actors that establish the theme, followed by various solo dances and duets, ending with acrobatic tales performed by the youngest members of the troupe.

The central upland region developed sounds that adapt European and American hits and mainland African music. Tsapika, from southern Madagascar, is a fast, rowdy electric guitar-based pop-boogie genre. Vivacious and irresistible with its upbeat 6/8 and 12/8 meters, Salegy of the west is Madagascar's most widely exported music and keeps people dancing the night away at local pubs and clubs.

[Adapted from an article in the August 16, 2007 issue of the Seikyo Shimbun, Soka Gakkai, Japan]